07 September, 2007

Back to the future

I'm in the Ulster Room of the Burlington Hotel at the Environment Ireland® 2007 Conference. 'Towards 2020: The Environment in Ireland's Future'. Let’s not mention the lack of bicycle parking… Dave Fadden, a civil servant at the Department of Transport is speaking at the 'Towards a Sustainable Transport Future Workshop'. He tells a story. His brother-in-law has a garage. Last week a fellah came back with a 4.5 litre Range rover to the workshop; too embarrassed to drive it any more. Well that's some progress, but for the most part, plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose. The Transport 21 white paper didn't mention cycling & walking in detail. He said the trend is not sustainable and that political leadership is required. Traffic congestion is going to get worse. Some kind of a champion at a political level is required, with the Green Party in government there’s quite a momentum. It's early days, but he's confident Noel Dempsey will rise to the challenge. .. He said it galls him that cycling is at 2% in Dublin, but in Copenhagen it's 33%.

Henk van der Kamp, head of the school of spatial planning at DIT made a pertinent comment about by-passes: why don't they institute traffic calming and car-free areas at the same time as building by-passes? As he pointed out, if you don't integrate transport and land-use you can forget about it. He lists the studies over the last forty years - Myles Wright 1967; Dublin Transportation Study 1971; Eastern Region Development Guidelines 1988; Dublin Transportation Initiative 1994; Strategic Planning Guidelines 1997; Platform for Change 2001;Regional Planning Guidelines 2004; Transport 21 -2005. Some looked at transport, some at land-use but never the two together. I sat on a DTI panel back in the early 90’s and I do remember Peter Ryan from Consultants Steer Davies Gleeve talking about this, but it just didn’t happen. One thing is certain, there has to be a meeting of minds between the Department of Transport and the Department of the Environment to put us on a sustainable course.

Henk emphasised that spatial planning policies need to be in place prior to the provision of infrastructure. Land use and transport planning policies have to be integrated. Henk ended on a poignant note. Its twenty years since An Foras Fórbatha was abolished. Maybe it’s time for a new environmental research agency to guide us through the twenty-first century.


Daniel Ryan said...

I've just seen Jan Gehl speak in Sydney this week. He made the pertinent point that every city has a Department for Transport but few have a Department for Pedestrians and the Public Realm. No pedestrian should have to ask permission to cross the street; traffic lights should change a few seconds earlier for cyclists to let them get away first; parking spaces must take into account cyclists passing by; there is so much to do.

Tomaltach said...

I would agree that Transport and land use should go together. But sticking to bikes for the moment. In Ireland the cyclist and the pedestrian are no more than an after thought - for planners, architects, and builders alike. I welcome the significant expansion lanes for cyclists over the past few years in Dublin - but there still aren't enough, and crucially, the quality isn't there. No matter it seems to bump up and down off kerbs, manholes or if your lane simply dissappears into a verge of grass. Also lanes appear on roads where the remaining portion for motorists is about half a car. The result is obvious. For buildings - I cycle to cinema, and work and shops. At work we have lobbied (and recieved top class facilities) but elsehwere it's poor to nil. If you arrive at the main entrance to the Dundrum Town Centre for example, you see bike clamped to railings, and stairs - wrong I know, but why? Where was the adequate provision for cyclists. How many bikes can you park outside the Rathfarnham Motor tax office - answer, none. Or best of all, Joe Daly got planning for and built a huge new Bike Shop in Dundrum. He has provision for a car park - but not a single bike stand!

I wrote the following in the Irish indo last year :

"Biking to work is better for the environment, better for your health, and in Dublin at least, probably faster. What we need now is for the government to recognise this and launch a major plan to bring back the bike. We need a huge investment in obstacle free cycle-lanes; we need special traffic lights for cyclists, like they have in Holland; we need tax incentives or regulations to encourage or force building owners to provide facilities - racks outside, showers and changing rooms inside. It is possible to imagine electric mopeds for those who detest hills - the battery could be charged in a special rack during office hours. If the onset of the slightest drizzle makes you shudder, why not think of covered bikes, another breakthrough emerging in Holland. "